Suggested links

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Most children and teens go through rebellious phases, but children with ODD are different. Oppositional defiant disorder is an impulse control disorder and typically presents as defiant and spiteful behavior towards people in authority. ODD can make home life and school life incredibly difficult for the child and those around them. Children with ODD who don’t receive treatment may go on to develop conduct disorder, a more severe impulse control disorder, and even personality disorders.

Battling addiction and ready for treatment? Find Treatment Now

What Is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is an impulse control disorder that causes school-age children and teens to display patterns of uncooperative, defiant, and angry behavior toward authority figures.

These behavior problems often disrupt the child’s school life and home life, as well as the child’s relationships.

ODD is considered among the disruptive behavior disorders, which also includes conduct disorder. Disruptive behavior disorders typically include indifference, defiance, or aggression towards others.

Children with ODD may engage in constant back-talking, disagreeableness, and even aggressive behavior when upset.

If left untreated, ODD can lead to conduct disorder, a more severe and violent impulse control disorder with grim outcomes for the child as they enter adulthood.

Common Co-Morbidities with ODD

ODD commonly occurs along with other key mental or neurodevelopmental conditions. Most children and teens with ODD and oppositional behavior have at least one other mental health condition.

Common co-occurring conditions with ODD include:

Prevalence of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

According to current research, around 3.3% of US children have ODD. In addition, around 40% of children with ADHD also have oppositional defiant disorder or a related conduct disorder.

About 30% of children diagnosed with ODD will develop conduct disorder.

ODD is one of the more common impulse control disorders. The prevalence of other impulse control disorders includes:

Symptoms of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional defiant disorder is characterized by consistent defiance, misbehavior, and spiteful reactions while angry or upset. The symptoms of ODD are far more severe than the typical rebellious or uncooperative behavior common with normal adolescent development.

Common symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder include:

  • Defiant behavior and conduct problems, especially with figures of authority like parents, teachers, and community leaders
  • Consistent and excessive arguing with adults and authority figures
  • Refusing to do what adults ask or constantly questioning rules or requests
  • Spitefulness or vindictiveness towards others while upset or angry
  • Frequent temper tantrums and explosions of anger
  • Seeking revenge on others when angry
  • Hostile behavior done purposely to upset others, especially when in an irritable mood

Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Addiction

Unfortunately, drug and alcohol abuse is common for children and teens with ODD. For many adolescents with ODD, abusing substances is a way of coping with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and anger.

Most children with ODD have co-occurring mental health conditions that can cause unpleasant symptoms they may struggle to manage or regulate. According to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, children with ODD are six times more likely to suffer from a substance use disorder.

Causes of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Researchers aren’t sure of the exact cause of ODD. However, current research indicates that issues with parent/child relationships, genetic impacts, and environmental factors cause ODD.

Children whose parents have a history of mental health conditions are more likely to have issues themselves.

In the case of ODD, a family history of impulse control disorders, personality disorders, mood disorders, and addiction can make a child more likely to have ODD and other mental illnesses.

The environment in which the child is raised can also play a tremendous factor in ODD. Inconsistent discipline or reinforcement of inappropriate actions can lead to the problem behaviors seen in ODD. In addition, neglectful or abusive households can contribute to the development of ODD.

Risk Factors for Oppositional Defiant Disorder

There are a few risk factors that can lead to ODD symptoms and possibly developing ODD. Not all children with these risk factors will develop ODD, but many will.

Common risk factors associated with the development of oppositional defiant disorder include:

  • Being male
  • Family history of mental illness and addiction
  • Inconsistent parenting and discipline that leads to reinforcing the wrong behaviors
  • Hanging out with peers who are violent or rule-breaking
  • Other mental illnesses, such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, impulse control disorders, and neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD and learning differences

Effective Treatment for Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Oppositional defiant disorder must first be diagnosed before beginning treatment. A mental health professional specializing in adolescent psychiatry will first interview the child and their caregivers to determine the symptoms.

The healthcare provider will then compare symptoms to the diagnostic criteria listed in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition) to rule out other conditions.

Once a diagnosis is obtained, psychotherapy is the most common and effective treatment.


Psychotherapy is usually conducted through one-on-one sessions and family therapy, often in the form of parent management training or multisystemic therapy. One-on-one sessions with the child typically include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) works by helping the child get to the root of their behaviors and addressing them in a productive, positive way. In family therapy, parent management training can help parents or caregivers better control their child’s behavior while at home through positive parenting.

Multisystemic therapy, on the other hand, is an intensive family and community-based intervention that involves all family members. The therapy works by building positive reinforcement and problem-solving skills to address situations and increasing accountability for problematic behaviors through anger management.


There are currently no FDA-approved medications for the treatment of ODD. However, due to high rates of comorbidity for children with ODD, medications for other co-occurring disorders may help lessen the severity of ODD symptoms.

Medications sometimes prescribed to help symptoms related to ODD include:

Get Help for Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Raising a child with ODD can be incredibly challenging for families and teachers. Luckily, there are treatment plans available for ODD, and early intervention is the best way to ensure your child does not escalate to more serious symptoms and conditions.

Speak with your doctor about treatment options to help improve your child’s ODD and family life. If you’re unsure where to start, check out SAMHSA’s online treatment locator or call 1-800-662-4357 (HELP) to learn what clinicians are available in your area.

Ready for Treatment?

Centric Behavioral Health, our paid treatment center sponsor, is available 24/7:
Learn More About Centric or For Immediate Treatment Help, Call (888) 694-1249.

FAQs About Oppositional Defiant Disorder

What age is ODD diagnosed?

ODD is typically diagnosed around the age of eight. However, diagnosis may come earlier or later depending on when symptoms first occur and begin to cause issues.

Is ODD a form of autism?

No. ODD is a completely different condition than autism. ODD is an impulse control disorder, and autism is a neurodevelopment disorder. However, some symptoms between the two conditions are quite similar.

Do kids grow out of ODD?

Some children will outgrow their ODD. However, not all children will outgrow it. By seeking out treatment, you can ensure your child has access to life-changing interventions like social skills training and emotional management techniques.

Treatment for ODD can also include training programs for parents who are struggling to manage their children with ODD. Parent training can help parents or caregivers better control their child’s behavior in a more consistent, positive way.

Can oppositional defiant disorder be treated with medication?

There is currently no approved medication for the treatment of ODD. That being said, some medications may be used to address certain symptoms or treat co-occurring disorders like ADHD, anxiety, or depression.

How do you discipline a child with oppositional defiant disorder?

ODD is often addressed through firm but positive parenting and having pre-arranged consequences for defiant behaviors. It’s most important for parents and caregivers to remain calm and not take ODD personally.

Matching your child’s emotional outbursts with intense emotion will only escalate the situation and reinforce that bad behaviors are effective in riling up other people.

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

  1. Ghosh, A., Ray, A., & Basu, A. (2017, November 29). Oppositional Defiant Disorder: Current Insight. Psychology Research and Behavior Management.
  2. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) in Children. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2024, January 17).
  3. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD): Symptoms & Treatment. Cleveland Clinic. (2022, May 16).
  4. Oppositional Defiant Disorder. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. (2019, January).
  5. Ryan, S. R., Stanger, C., Thostenson, J., Whitmore, J. J., & Budney, A. J. (2013, December). The Impact of Disruptive Behavior Disorder on Substance Use Treatment Outcome in Adolescents. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.
  6. Whitbourne, K. (2023, November 7). Oppositional Defiant Disorder: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatments. WebMD.

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Our free email newsletter offers guidance from top addiction specialists, inspiring sobriety stories, and practical recovery tips to help you or a loved one keep coming back and staying sober.

By signing up, you’ll be able to:

  • Stay Focused on Recovery
  • Find Ways To Give Back
  • Connect with Others Like You
Sign Up For Our Newsletter
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Find Treatment Now